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Get Out of the House to Make Delicious Vegetables


By Stefanie Djuric and Dawn Blocklinger, Bloomington Hy-Vee Dietitians

Health experts consistently recommend that most Americans should try to eat more vegetables. News flash! For one reason or another, most people do not want to hear this advice, much less practice it. When it comes to eating vegetables, raw or cooked, really doesn’t seem to make a difference. Keep reading to learn about preparing vegetables in a way that may just change all your thoughts about eating them.

To get rave reviews for serving vegetables at the next meal, try adding vegetables cooked on the grill. Grilling vegetables is a good way to meet the health goal of eating more vegetables. Why? The smoky smell and taste of vegetables cooked on the grill make them appealing to even the pickiest eater.

Common sense may lead us to think cooking decreases nutrients in vegetables. Interesting studies conducted at the Cornell University Department of Food Science by Rui Hai Liu determined that cooking actually releases nutrients from the softened cell walls of many different vegetables. The release of these nutrients leads to better absorption and thereby contributes to better health. For example, studies on human health suggest regular consumption of high levels of lycopene provides protection from certain cancers and may lower the risk of heart disease. When quartered tomatoes are cooked by simmering/roasting/grilling at 190–200°F for 30 minutes, the lycopene becomes up to 30 percent more concentrated and is more readily absorbed. Research also indicates the availability of the antioxidants and phenolic acid in asparagus increases when asparagus spears are cooked.

Ready to give grilled vegetables a try? Here’s how to do it:

  • Take your favorite vegetable(s) and clean, trim, then cut into bite-sized pieces, or leave whole. Prepare sturdy salad greens (such as romaine, kale, baby bok choy, or small head lettuces like butter lettuce) by cutting in half or quarters.
  • Oil the grill rack or grill basket by using a paper towel dipped in olive or vegetable oil that is wiped over the surfaces where the food will touch. Do not use cooking sprays.
  • Toss the prepared vegetables in olive, corn, or your favorite flavor-infused oil or drizzle the oil on the flat surface of lettuces to be grilled.
  • Grill salad greens with the cut side down until smoky and wilted. Grill other vegetables by first considering the density of each. Potatoes, for instance, will require a longer grilling time than asparagus or tomatoes. If you choose a mixture of vegetables, start by grilling the more dense choices until almost tender, then add the rest of the vegetables until desired tenderness is reached, turning as needed for even cooking and browning.
  • Using skewers or a grill basket is another option for perfectly grilled vegetables.

Hy-Vee is Bloomington’s newest full service grocery store located at 1403 N. Veteran’s Parkway. Dietitians are on-site at the store every day of the week to help you with specific dietary needs or to answer any questions you may have. If you need further guidance, make an appointment with Stefanie or Dawn, your Hy-Vee registered dietitians, at 309-663-3054 or e-mail

Sources available upon request.

Photo credit: Lisovskaya/iStock, kjohansen/iStock

Grilled Zucchini and Yellow Squash with Chipotle Lime Salt

Serves: 8
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 10 minutes

2        medium zucchini
2        medium yellow or crook-neck squash
1/4 Cup    extra-virgin olive oil
2 tsp    kosher salt, divided
1 tsp    freshly ground black pepper
2 tsp    chipotle powder, divided
3        limes, zested and juiced       

Cut tops and bottoms from zucchini and squash. Cut lengthwise into quarters. In a large resealable plastic bag, combine olive oil, 1 tsp kosher salt, black pepper, 1 tsp chipotle powder, 1 Tbsp lime zest and juice. Add zucchini and squash, seal bag and shake to combine. Marinate for 30 minutes to 1 hour.

Preheat grill for direct heat to medium-high. Oil grill grates. Grill zucchini and squash on all sides until nicely marked and slightly tender. Remove to platter. Just before serving, combine remaining lime zest with remaining salt and chipotle powder. Sprinkle over hot zucchini and squash and serve.

Nutrition Facts per serving:
Calories: 80, Carbohydrate: 5g, Cholesterol: 0mg, Dietary Fiber: 1g, Fat: 7g, Protein: 1g, Saturated Fat: 1g, Sodium: 490mg, Sugars: 2g, Trans fats: 0g